What's on around the world in January 2015
The New Year is the perfect time to try something out of your comfort zone with some of the most enthralling festivals occurring around the world this January. The next generation of edgy filmmakers will try to make their mark at Sundance while the Ethiopian town of Gondar, labelled Africa's Camelot, will take a communal dip in the River Jordan.
Gondar comes alive for Timkat, the vibrant and colourful celebration of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordani. Replicas of the Ark of the Covenant are paraded from the Fasilides' Bath to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church accompanied by joyful song and danceii. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, join in with the locals as they leap into the Fasilides' Bathii.
Gondar has plenty for you to see while you are in town for this exotic festival. Gaze upon the World Heritage-listed Royal Enclosure featuring the stunning Palace of Iyasu I and the historic Fasiladas' Palaceiii. The Debre Berhan Selassie Church, with its exquisite artistic display including the eye-catching 104 Ethiopian cherubs covering the ceiling, is also worth a visiti. If you are travelling to Gondar from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, consider flying because a bus trip can take up to two daysi.
La Tamborrada, Spain
La Tamborrada, also known as the Drum Festival, is thought to be one of the loudest festivals in Spain with 24 hours of continuous and boisterous musiciv. Beginning in the Plaza de la Constitucion at midnight with the raising of the city's flag, over 100 drum regiments dressed in Napoleonic era costumes roam the streets of San Sebastianv. One of the most famous melodies played is 19th century composer Raimundo Sarriegui's musical love letter to the city, the San Sebastian Marchv.
The festival is a celebration of religious 4th century Christian martyrdom and 18th century political rebellion. Brass bands accompany the drumming unitsv with the aim of being loud enough to wake the 4th century patron saint from the deadiv. The city's occupation by French troops during the Peninsular War also lends itself to the origins of the festival. It is believed that the townspeople began to mock the drumming of the French soldiers as an act of civil disobediencev. Saint Sebastian is also a culinary paradise, home to the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the worldv.
Sundance Film Festival, USA
22 January to 1 February
Film enthusiasts and celebrities alike converge upon the ski town of Park City, Utah for Hollywood icon Robert Redford's world famous Sundance Film Festivalvi. A celebration of independent filmmakers, Sundance specialises in documentaries and features films that aim to 'inspire, challenge, delight, startle, move and thrill' viewers from all walks of lifevi.
The venues for the films are as unique and creative as the films themselves, such as gyms, high school auditoriums and old-fashioned theatresvii. Alternative festivals have also sprung up in Park City, in the wake of Sundance's success, such as Slamdance, Slumdance, Lapdance and Nodance which are just as intriguing as the main festivalvii. Consider viewing 'NEXT' category films which are innovative, edgy and often easier to get tickets for than the blockbuster premieresvii. Combine your festival visit with a Utah ski trip. Park City Mountain Resort, Canyons Resort and Deer Valley Resort are right in town, and Alta Ski Area, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort and Robert Redford's Sundance Mountain Resort are just a short drive.
Makar Sankranti, India
It's up, up and away as Jaipur becomes overrun by kites of all shapes, sizes and colours. Held on the day of Makar Sankranti, one of the major Hindu harvest festivalsviii, Jaipur locals first make a pilgrimage to the religious site of Galtaji where they bathe in sacred water tanksix. After bathing, the locals pray to the Sun God for good health, wealth and plentiful cropsx.
Makar Sankranti is a public holiday, giving everyone the chance to enjoy the festivities of kite flying for the dayx. Local kite clubs organise various competitions as well as the state government-sponsored 'International Kite Festival' which attracts kite lovers from around the worldx. The festival is also a time for families to share food together including sweets made out of sesame seeds such as Gajak, the famous Jaipur Sesame Brittle, and Feeni, the renowned Jaipur fibre sweetx.
Harbin International Ice & Snow Festival, China
5 January to 5 February
The coolest festival this January is the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, attracting millions of visitors from all corners of the globexi. Located in North East China, Harbin's month long festival will astound you with dazzling snow and ice sculpture displays, including palaces, monuments and statues that are longer than two football fields or higher than 50 metresxii,xiii. Many of these sculptures are brought to life with the help of computer controlled LED lightingxiii.
There will be three festival venues across the city: Sun Island Scenic Area, featuring sculptures made of snow; Ice and Snow World, home to large scale ice sculptures; and Zhaolin Park, featuring activities and sculptures suitable for kidsxiii. Aside from the incredible sculptures, Harbin offers plenty of snow sports and activities including ice skating, skiing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding or sleigh-ridingxiv.